Toyota Motor Corp. said Monday that two California universities are its first U.S. customers for hydrogen fuel-cell autos as the company seeks to establish its low-pollution technology as an industry standard.
The automaker will lease one modified version of the Highlander sport utility model to UC Irvine and another to UC Davis. The schools will each pay $10,000 a month on a 30-month lease.
Toyota and rival automakers are racing to offer fuel-cell technology in anticipation of tighter environmental rules.
Fuel cells, used in spacecraft for decades, create electricity by combining hydrogen and oxygen, and under ideal conditions produce only steam as a byproduct. High costs and a lack of hydrogen-fueling stations limit current prospects for the technology.
"Bringing practical fuel-cell-powered vehicles to the mass market will require a considerable investment of time, resources, cooperation and patience," Jim Press, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, said in a statement. "This program marks a significant first step."